Thirty is a funny age. You’re old, but not really. And you’re still young, but not really.
But I am here.
I thought on the day I might have some infinite wisdom for you, but it didn’t turn out that way.
I sat down to write. Blank page.
Next day, same thing.
Two weeks later, still blank.
So I tried to make it simple. “Thirty things I’ve learned by thirty.” And I thought, maybe that’s too much. Nobody will read that. So perhaps it could be “Twenty things I learned in my twenties”. And even then, I could only think of five or six really good ones off the top of my head.
So I’m just going to write. An old fashioned letter from me to you.
Let me start by talking about: Life.
When I look back on thirty years, they have flashed by. Boom, boom, boom, like an E! True Hollywood Story. It’s just a mush of experiences, squeezed into a mental photo album. Most of it is lost in memory, like a movie you saw when you were a kid; you only remember a few scenes. But that’s my life. Almost half my life has gone, and I feel like I’ve barely started figuring things out.
Life is short. We all know this.
But I’m not sure we all really know this. None of us believe it. None of us respect the shortness.
Why is that?
For some strange reason, we all expect to be here for a long time. We believe we are owed a long life. But we are not. We think about our final days and we all imagine ourselves sitting in a lazyboy in a cosy lounge with grandchildren jumping up and down around us. The reality is, many of us won’t live long enough to see that. Life does not owe us X amount of years. Death can happen at any time, and often it happens sooner rather than later.
Death is as natural as life. It is not only inevitable, but necessary. For life to mean anything, we must eventually die. I think most of us know that. But we don’t respect it.
Do you know what the life expectancy is for someone in New Zealand? It’s 80.2 years.
Even that I find a little hard to believe. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. A couple made it to 80.2. The majority did not.
Even if all the cards are played right, that’s only 50 more years for me.
50 more summers, 50 more birthdays, 50 more NBA Finals, 50 more blueberry seasons.
If someone told you, you would only eat 50 more slices of pizza for the rest of your life, how different would they be?
I would make sure every slice had only the freshest mozzarella, imported from Italy. It would need to be wood fired, of course, thin crusted and served fresh out of the oven. On the side I would have the crispiest garlic bread, steaming hot, oozing with butter. On the other side, an ice cold vanilla milkshake, made with New Zealand ice cream and real vanilla bean. And I would eat it in complete silence, on a sunny day, in my underwear, on an empty stomach.
In other words, I would make sure every slice was perfect.
For some reason, we don’t think about our lives the same way.
“50 more summers? Well, I’ll spend this one holed up at the office, and maybe next year I’ll be able to spend a few more days at the beach.”
Next year? What makes you think there will be a next year?
You are not owed a next year. Next year is not guaranteed.
So the first thing I will say is; respect the shortness of life. Respect the fragility of life. There is no rewind button here. There is no pause button either. We are here for a very short time, it is gone in a blink, and it can be taken from us at any time.
Life is short. What do you do with a short life?
Have a dream.
Our dreams die in our twenties. When you’re 16 or 17, you think about your future and believe you’re going to take over the world. Ambition brews inside of you. That’s where all that teenage zest comes from – dreams. But then 21 comes along and your dreams slowly die. You take a job “just for a couple of years.” A couple turns into five, and then ten. You never start the clothing label. You never write the album. Time to be a grown up now.
That word – dreams – it often intimidates people. Maybe that’s why we let them die. Because there is a tendency to associate realising dreams with uprooting your entire life, winning the life lottery and achieving the impossible. But that is not what dreams are.
Dreams are simply things you want to do that will make you happy.
Your dream may be as simple as having a family, or travelling the world for a year.
Dreams are not grand victories bestowed upon the richest and the luckiest. They are unglamourous victories bestowed upon the persistent.
Our lives, are just a collection of days. Think about what you did today. And what you did yesterday. Think about what you will do tomorrow. That is your life.
Somebody who exercises and is healthy every day, lives a healthy life. Someone who writes and plays music every day, becomes a great musician. It is the same for dreams. The people who see their dreams are the people who work on their dream every day.
This is good news. It means dreams are not complicated. There is no need to quit your job and find a sanctuary and live off sardines to chase your dream. It is simply a matter of doing something every day. It doesn’t matter how slow you go. You can start today, fifteen minutes a day, thirty minutes a day, waking up ten minutes early, saving an extra dollar. The journey is long and ugly, but if you believe in it, if you chip away at it slowly, if you don’t let it die, it will come. I am still chasing mine. I hope you will be chasing yours. Because what else is life for? To chase after the things you want. Your fancy job and college degree are all secondary to the real reason you are here. That means there will never be regret in chasing a dream. It is, after all, exactly what a living human being is supposed to do.
Life is short. Chase a dream. Now let’s talk about love.
When people talk about love, they think about an everlasting, Romeo & Juliet, happily-ever-after love. This is a Disneyland version of love. Sure, it is crazy and beautiful. But it is not the love I want you to think about.
There is a much more boring version of love. It is a dysfunctional, uninteresting version of love. But it is also the strongest, and the most important.
Think about your family. Nothing is more important than those few precious people. They are why you are here. I see it all the time, all over the world. Best friends do nice things for each other, sure. Business partners and lovers and so on, they can care about each other too. But love between family is unrivalled and universal. It is the only unconditional love you will receive in your life. It cannot be broken by a one night stand and an ugly divorce. Girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives, old friendships – they come and go. But blood is always forever. It is the most powerful thing in the world.
It is easy for us to forget this. Life happens, and we take this love for granted.
Don’t take it for granted.
One of the saddest things I see today is parents who never see their kids. Your parents may be 60, 70 years old. They may only have another ten years on this planet. Then they’re gone forever. All a parent wants to do is spend time with the children they gave their lives to. Yet often we are too cool – out trying to become senior assistant regional finance manager so we can buy a new jet ski, or living the high life in London town. I already hear my clock ticking at 30. I cannot imagine how loud the clock ticks at 60. To watch the years count down – from ten to nine to eight, wanting to spend your final years with the children that no longer have time for you. What is more heartbreaking than that?
We think ten years is a long time to have left. It is not. Being gone forever – that is a long time. So the third thing I would say to you is – make time for the people you love and the people who love you. You may think your twenties is your time to break free, but it is not. It is your time to give back. Your family will not be here forever. You will not be here forever. You can spend too much time working, you can spend too much time with a lover or a hobby, but you can never spend too much time with family. Wherever you go in life, never forget where you came from and the people who loved you from the beginning.
My next piece of advice is: Love your fear.
Most of us go through life doing absolutely nothing every day. Maybe you go to work, you eat some lunch, punch a few numbers into the computer. That’s what I call doing absolutely nothing.
What is better about the world because of what you did today? What did you learn? Which part of it improved your life? How much fun did you have?
Nothing, nothing, nothing and nothing.
And I believe I know the reason we do nothing. Because we are afraid of doing something.
Everything you want is waiting on the other side of fear. Fear is the reason we don’t have the things we want. The dream you chase is still only a dream because of fear.
We need to love our fears. That churning feeling in your guts before you’re about to do something that scares you – that’s a beautiful feeling. You need to learn to love that feeling. It’s a feeling that is saying to you, “Something awesome is about to happen.” It’s like going on a roller coaster for the first time. At the beginning you’re almost ready to shit your guts out. And you’re going up, up, up and you’re mind is spinning and you would get off this fucking ride if you could, but you can’t, you’re strapped in. And finally you go over the hump and your stomach falls out and you curse and wonder what the hell you were thinking. But then the ride ends and you feel alive. And after a few more times you’re not even afraid anymore. In fact, you start to love the feeling. You want a bigger and better rollercoaster this time. You start to crave it. That’s what can happen if you love your fears.
Turn your life into the rollercoaster. Love your fear so you can stop going through life doing nothing. Love your fear and do something today.
When you love your fear, there is nothing difficult about doing something today. It can be as big or as small as you like. Maybe you wanted to ask a girl on a date, or go bungee jumping. So go out your front door and do it? Is it that difficult? I’ll do it later is the most cowardice, idiotic phrase of our generation. And I have been a coward and an idiot many times. You’re afraid. Great. But if you can love your fear, if you can face your fears for just five seconds, something amazing will happen. The whole world is waiting on the other side of fear. Choose something you want and do it today. If it goes well, congratulations. If it goes badly, you’re dead in fifty years anyway. So who cares.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I want you to be proud.
Many of us go through life wishing we were someone else. We want to be taller like him, richer like them, prettier like her. There is no end to this game, and no winners. It is a loveless and foolish game to play.
You cannot go through life not wanting to be you. This is a one way ticket to misery. Perhaps 1% of us get dealt a perfect hand in life. The other 99% of us need to live with our imperfections. We often look in the mirror and we don’t see what we want to see. But if we focus on our envy of others we lose focus of our own journey.
The world is screwed up. You get told to act and look a certain way and then get shamed when you don’t become a millionaire. Fuck that.
Perfection is an illusion. When you see the shiny photos of the pretty girl on Instagram, know that she has a totally screwed up life beneath the glitter, just like you. Trust me, I know. Nobody has it figured out.
Be proud of who you are. Be proud of where you come from. Be proud to be different. Be proud of your struggle. Be proud of your success.
I am not advocating arrogance. I am advocating self-belief. Nor am I advocating laziness. I am advocating authenticity. You don’t need to be a movie star or millionaire to validate your existence; being yourself is more than enough. But strive to be the very best version of yourself. If you’re a nerd, be a nerd. But be the best fucking nerd you can be.
If you can do that, every single day, and if you express yourself honestly and represent yourself honestly and never pretend to be somebody you’re not, the world will love you. The real and the genuine is so rare in this world of pretenders. Blaze in your own trail and you will never need or want to be anyone else. It is a difficult thing to do. You may spend your entire twenties trying to find that person. But know that the person in the mirror is exactly the person you want to see. Be unshakeably proud of who you are. Because that is exactly who you need to be to realise your dream and make your mark on this world.
Finally, let me say this: Have fun.
Where did we come from? Who put us here? And why? What is this place? I think about this every day. But the truth is, we will never know. What I do know is we weren’t put here to spend our lives being worried, sad, stressed, angry, jealous and hateful. But that’s what we do. We spend so much of our lives drowning in negative emotions.
Life is far too short to spend in such ways. If you experience negativity, don’t let it consume you. Let it run through you for ten seconds, twenty seconds, feel every part of it, and then kill it. Wave it goodbye. It doesn’t deserve any more than that.
In its place, find joy. We all know where to find joy. We all know the things that make us feel good and proud and joyful. And if there is an end game to this thing called life, it is surely to find and experience happiness. So however you decide to spend your days here, just make sure you’re having a good time.
Life is short. Have a dream. Spend time with your family. Love your fears. Be proud. Have a whole lot of fun.